At Oakstone, we specialise in helping US/EMEA software companies expand across Europe. Helping these companies attract Grade A sales people is frequently one of the most challenging tasks we undertake.
Once we have conducted our research identifying the right people, which is relatively straightforward, we speak to and qualify a great many people and drill down on their achievements, at which stage the complex and most challenging part of our role really begins.
Typically, standard recruiting agencies are capable of doing that first part fairly well too (or they should be!) – but the key from here is ensuring there are solid, tangible and personally relevant attractions for the individual, to show them why they should consider and then join the company in question.
In our experience it will normally be down to the following:-
• Earning potential
• More responsibility
• Career progression
• Strong mentor
• Travel (more or less)
There are many more but the above are the most common factors. The real crunch is when you ask yourself the following question: “What is a class A sales candidate being told he can achieve in each company he chooses to meet?”
The answer is that he’s probably getting told the same everywhere, i.e. you can earn much more here, our targets are realistic, our culture is great, stock is included and you’ll make good money from this when we IPO, we love to promote from within, etc etc, you get the idea.
So when it boils down to it, what makes the difference? There are many views on this, but I believe it’s down to the people, culture and a smooth, impressive, hiring process.
We’re always told that people buy from people – this is no different. A top candidate will only ever want to work with people he respects and those that he knows he can learn from.
Equally, the company culture can be a big factor in either attracting or turning off a candidate. For example, a company with a very serious, formal, slick corporate culture doesn’t suit everybody, and others may prefer things a bit more relaxed – smart/casual dress, a little bit of office banter etc.
Culture is particularly important for top sales guys, many of whom have experience of working for companies where they were micro-managed and strictly monitored in the past – they know they don’t like this kind of environment, as it won’t be what drove them to super success in the past, so are keen to avoid it now!
Finally, the hiring process can make a huge difference to a candidate’s decision. Unfortunately, hiring processes are not always as smooth as they should be. Delays and poor organisation can often lead to the process dragging on more than it should. The crucial thing is to set the right level of expectation for the candidate – they will be judging the company the whole time, so promising a fast, smooth hiring process and failing to deliver on that is likely to turn them off the company altogether.
So next time you’re thinking about attracting an A player, and are either having difficulty or want to ensure you stand out – it may be worth thinking about the points above.